Suns’ Purke looking to get ahead of hitters in third start (updated)

Left-handed prospect Matt Purke is set to make his third start of the season today at 5:05 p.m. for the low Single-A Hagerstown Suns at the Kannapolis Intimidators.

Purke is 0-1 with a 6.52 ERA in two starts. He has walked eight batters and has nine strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings. The 96th overall selection in the 2011 amateur draft said it will take time for him to build back to where he was before the two extra months of extended spring training he had to undergo due to an undisclosed injury.

“I am still working on it,” Purke said. “It is a process. There will be days when you feel like everything is good, and then there will be days when you don’t even know why you are a pitcher. You kind of just try to keep as even keel as you can out there and just really figure out what is working that day and use it to the best of your ability. I am glad to be able to get on the mound and play at a high level with this team.”

After allowing five runs in his first outing, he surrendered just two runs in 4 1/3 innings June 5 and felt much better about his presence on the mound.

“It was OK,” Purke said on his second start. “It was better than the first start. I got myself in a little bit of trouble in the first inning by walking a few guys, but I was able to settle down and keep the game close. The guys played really well behind me and made some great plays. They really bailed me out. My job is to keep it as close as I can. I am fortunate to have those guys behind me.”

Purke said he still has a lot of fine-tuning to accomplish and building stamina is an important element in the process.

“It is not uncommon for pitchers to have to go through (extended spring training),” Purke said. “I am enjoying it and having fun and really working hard each day to get better and back to the form I have been working towards my whole life.

“I am still building. Basically, like I had to do two spring trainings with the time I had to take off. I am really coming out of that shell and getting my feet wet in regular season baseball. It is coming along. I am excited about it. As each day goes by, I get a little sharper and a little crisper.”

Purke said the focus for today’s third start is go after hitters on his first few pitches instead of having to catch up if he doesn’t get early strikes.

“I am going to try to not get behind guys in the count,” Purke said. “I have got myself in trouble by walking guys and getting deep in counts and giving up some hits I could have avoided. Basically, I want to attack hitters. Strike outs are great but ground balls and quick outs get you deeper in games. That is what I want to do and be able to pitch in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.”

Purke is capped usually around 85 to 90 pitches for each start. So far, Purke said he has gone 84 and 89 pitches in his first two starts with Hagerstown.

Update: Purke started off strong, throwing a perfect first three innings in Kannapolis. Purke allowed three runs in the fourth inning. The final line showed Purke going 5 2/3 innings, allowing four runs - three earned - on three hits, four walks, five strikeouts, one hit batter and two wild pitches.

Purke spoke about getting ahead early in the count. With all the walks and a few wild pitches, it appears that Purke would want to obviously focus on command again as he goes along. But going 5 2/3 and starting off with three shutout innings is certainly another positive sign.

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